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Last Washington state agency puts vaccine mandate in place

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The Maryland state capitol building (Photo: Steve Doty, Washington Examiner)

Last Washington state agency puts vaccine mandate in place

January 06, 08:00 PM January 06, 08:00 PM

Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs became the final statewide elected official in the state to put a vaccine mandate in place for employees of his agency, following the lead of actions Gov. Jay Inslee took last summer.

Hobbs made the announcement Monday, saying all employees in the department must provide proof of being fully vaccinated by Feb. 25 as a condition of keeping their jobs. Those requesting a medical or religious exemption will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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“This was a decision I made after an assessment and commitment to the health and safety of our employees, especially as COVID-19 continues to occupy all aspects of our lives,” Hobbs told reporters at a press conference. “I suspect that there will probably be a few employees that will not follow this, and if history bears out in this case, then probably just a low percentage of employees will choose to leave or not vaccinate.”

Hobbs said 70% of the department’s 300 employees — or about 200 — had already voluntarily submitted paperwork showing they are vaccinated.

Inslee last August issued his mandate that all state employees had to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, but the order did not apply to departments run by other statewide elected officials.

The only statewide elected official out of seven not to follow suit was then-Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who was also the only Republican statewide officeholder.

About 2,000 employees, or 3% of the workforce, were dismissed or resigned under Inslee’s mandate.

Wyman stepped down in November to take a position with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Inslee appointed Hobbs, then serving in the state Senate, as the interim. A special election will be held in November, with the winner serving out the final two years of Wyman’s four-year term.

Meanwhile, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his experience with COVID has been rough after testing positive on Dec. 23.

“Frankly, I’m still even kind of just recovering from it, just physically and with the headaches I’ve still got,” he told KIRO News Monday. “To be honest, it’s been a real challenge.”

Ferguson said when he was first diagnosed, he was “flat on my back for 36 hours.”

The attorney general said he is fully vaccinated but had not yet received a booster shot.

“I wish I just made it more of a priority to take the time to get that booster earlier,” he said, noting that he planned to receive one Tuesday. “It’s going to be important to get for everyone.”

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